Rebecca Hennessy
Rebecca Hennessy 20 December 2017
Categories B2B, Data & Analytics

Is a lean pilot your answer to getting that data quality business case over the line?

It can be hard to join the dots between the businesses’ goals and managing data quality more effectively. To lend help to the sector, Dylan Jones, data quality guru, and Experian, have collaborated to offer data leaders practical steps (at zero or minimal cost) to build a case for data quality investment.

Why? Well, it’s important for the industry to overcome this common dilemma. One simple way to do this is by delivering a zero cost data quality pilot (or as near to it as possible) that drives a demonstrable benefit to the business.

Lean pilots – a data quality business case

The conventional approach for justifying a data quality business case is to quote industry research and accounts of data quality benefits. These can help in certain cases, but nothing demonstrates the value of data quality technology like tangible results, of course.

A lean pilot involves executing a small-scale version of your initiative over a short timeframe to demonstrate tangible uplift in data quality.

This approach solves the 'chicken and egg' frustration that many people experience with data quality management funding: How can you demonstrate the value of improvement without getting the budget to implement data quality in the first place?

A well-executed pilot consumes practically no capital investment at all, apart from a little time. The goal of this pilot is to demonstrate the value of data quality improvement by building an ROI model to support the business case.

This approach benefits several types of business scenario. You might fall into one of the below categories…:

  1. “We have a project and are shopping around”: You have a clearly defined tactical problem (e.g. data cleansing, data migration, analytics, GDPR) and are reviewing the data quality technology solutions available by using resources such as Gartner, Bloor and other industry sources…
  2. “We’re on an enterprise journey”: You’re getting going with data quality, perhaps as part of an overall drive for data management or data governance maturity, and you’re interested in how data quality tools can help support the overall program. Your organisation is sold on the benefits of data quality/data management/data governance and is open to discussing the latest innovations…
  3. “We’re total newbies”: You might be the evangelist or advocate for data quality, but you’re struggling with getting any internal traction with senior executives. You’re pushing against a closed door but are passionate about change and you just need help making it happen.

How a lean pilot differs from a conventional business case

Some practitioners use a ‘shock and awe’ approach when building a business case. They find lots of defects, link them to issues and processes the business is concerned about, and then attempt to shock them into investing in a new product to remove the problems.

The challenge with this approach is that you’re hoping to find something ‘juicy’ enough to motivate a senior audience. This is a ‘bottom-up’ business case strategy.

A key difference with the lean pilot approach is that the motivations of stakeholders are uncovered beforehand. You then work in a top-down fashion, uncovering drivers, economics, processes, data and issues, so that when issues are found, you have a compelling story to showcase back to the executives.

Making it happen

Creating a defensible data quality business case is one of the most challenging undertakings you will face as a data quality professional. By implementing a ‘Lean Pilot’ approach to your initiative you can overcome common obstacles before they derail proceedings, and demonstrate the financial benefits of making immediate improvement.

It’s also rewarding, because if delivered successfully, it helps realise the vision for long-term data quality maturity, putting the business in a great place for the future.

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